“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.”
– Scottish Poet Robert Burns, 1788
The song title “Auld Lang Syne” translated means “old long since.”
It’s a call to reflect on the past – to raise a glass to days gone by, so to speak. It’s a classic composition that carries us into the new year.
But, it’s been said, you can’t start the next chapter in your life if you keep rereading the last one. In order to have a successful year ahead, you must first process the year before and identify any residual issues that may hinder your emotional growth.
According to Bakersfield psychiatrist Salvador del Rosario, it’s important to address any past or present grievances, from everyday occurrences such as a rude waiter, impatient customer or late lunch date to the more significant offenses such as infidelity, betrayal or anger.
Del Rosario said: “Forgiveness allows you to let go of chronic interpersonal stress. Ridding yourself of toxic anger allows you to relax your muscles, breathe more easily and feel less anxious.”
While it can be extremely painful to revisit the emotional landmines of our past, sometimes it’s the only pathway to personal progress.
As a young adult, I forgave someone very close to me who didn’t even realize that I was still hurting.
I said, “I love you and I forgive you.”
Then I gave him a long hug. No further words were exchanged, but in that space of grace, I began to heal.
As for my own transgressions, I try my best to ask for forgiveness from others, and more personally, from God. And, as Christ wipes my slate clean, I can forgive myself and others because he first forgave me.
Is there a fence in your life that could use a little mending? Perhaps it’s time to plan a visit, pick up the phone, write a letter or say a prayer.
Del Rosario says letting go of our pettiness, need to be right or anger at the start of the year can be the impetus for continued self-improvement.
“You feel refreshed and motivated to make positive behavioral changes,” del Rosario said.
Extending an olive branch can bring much-needed closure to open wounds. It doesn’t condone the action, but it does allow us to move on.
If rectifying the wrongs of the past is harmful or unattainable in person, you can still offer or accept an apology by drafting an email you never send or visualizing a conversation that finally closes that chapter in your life.
When we strive to resolve relational discord in our lives, we can live more intentionally, be more present and focus more clearly on the future. Our lightened hearts will guide us well into the new year.
Opinions expressed in this column are those of Nina Ha.